Monday, July 11, 2011

Golden Eagle from Horseshoe Two Fire!

An immature Golden Eagle presented to the Tucson Wildlife Center after a rancher up near the Horseshoe Two Fire called in saying he had found a large bird unable to fly near his property.  Golden Eagles can range anywhere from 3-6kg (or 6-13lbs) when fully mature and have a wingspan up to 7 feet (2 meters)!  The Golden Eagle population is threatened in North America by loss of habitat and because of exposure to organochlorides and heavy metals (zinc, lead, iron, mercury, etc).  Because of this, they are protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and it is extremely important to go to great lengths to save each individual.

Immature Golden Eagle
Lou Rae, one of the head wildlife rehabilitation specialists, immediately drove from the center to pick up the bird since the rancher described the bird being very lethargic and very easy to catch (concerning when dealing with a Golden Eagle!)  On physical examination, the eagle was dehydrated and very thin (2kg, or 4.4lbs).  No external injuries were noted on examination.  The question we set out to answer was.... How did the eagle become so thin and dehydrated and why was he so easy to catch?

As mentioned above, populations of these large birds have been threatened by habitat destruction, organochlorides, and heavy metal toxicosis.  We initially wanted to send out an extensive work-up (full blood work and toxicology screening) but only had enough money to test for blood lead levels.  Unfortunately we see and treat a large amount of birds of prey that have been shot at themselves by people (an illegal activity) or eaten an animal that had been shot with bullets containing lead.

We submitted the test to the Arizona Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and within a few days the results were back!  The golden eagle's lead (Pb) levels were elevated but not within a toxic range (meaning the lead was probably not contributing to the eagle's lethargy and generalized wasting).  We suspect that the eagle was doing poorly because it was displaced by the Horseshoe Two Fire.

It would have been useful to run a full blood panel on the bird to take a look at all angles of possible reasons why he could have been so emaciated.  A complete blood count would have enabled us to take a look at his red blood cells (RBCs) and white blood cells (WBCs).  Some birds become anemia (low RBC count) and this can cause lethargy, or the eagle could have had an infection (which would have shown a higher white blood cell count than normal).  A biochemistry profile would have been able to help us look at his liver and kidney values to see if these were affected, among other important information.  Click the donate button to the right of the screen to help us fund more extensive testing on cases like these!  We depend on donations from people like you to help our wildlife....

Nonetheless, we treated with fluid therapy, special medications to help bind any existing lead levels in the blood, and assist feedings.  The eagle slowly regained strength and weight and was able to move from our intensive care unit to an outside enclosure.  It has acclimated well and continues to show improvements every day!  Hopefully soon he will be releasable back to the wild so keep returning for updates!

Rescue, Rehab, and Release

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hit-By-Car American Kestrel

* Click on the links embedded in the story for more detailed explanations and stories.

An adult, male American Kestrel presented to the Tucson Wildlife Center (TWC) shortly after being hit by a car. The kestrel was hunting near Wentworth and Speedway area when he was found near the side of the road and stunned. When he arrived at TWC he was barely responsive and disoriented and couldn't use his feet!  He was in a state of shock and we were very concerned with him possibly having neurologic trauma (injury to his brain and spinal cord). 

He was a well-muscled bird and had no signs of fractures or other external injuries on physical examination.  Fluids were administered immediately and he was transferred to a dark, warm incubator with oxygen supplementation.

Oxygen supplemented incubator

The next day, the Kestrel was brighter in his cage and able to walk.  Radiographs (x-rays) were performed and were normal.  Pain medication was given along with additional fluids (to keep him well hydrated).  He also was very interested in food (always a good sign)!

As time continued, the Kestrel continued to show signs of improvement and was introduced to an outdoor enclosure to let him spread his wings.  He was also introduced to a female American Kestrel (who had broken her wing a few weeks previous and was still on the mend).  As an interesting side-note, American Kestrels are sexually dimorphic, meaning that the males and females look different from each other!  The male started flying well on his own and within a few weeks was able to be released  back into the wild.  The female was also released at the same site since her fractured wing healed and had gotten along so well with the male.

Male (front) and Female (back) American Kestrel

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Young Harris Hawk with Trichomonas

*Note: Make sure you click the links in the post for a more detailed explanation on different topics in this post.

A young Harris's hawk presented to the Tucson Wildlife Center after being found in someone's backyard near Mountain Vista Place in Oro Valley. The caller had mentioned that there was a lot of debris in the hawk's mouth and it was unable to move around easily.

The hawk was mild-moderately dehydrated when he came into the center so both oral and subcutaneous fluids were administered immediately.  These were supplemented with vitamin B.  On physical examination, the hawk was thin with a palpably sharp keel.  No exterior wounds were observed.  The hawk was alert and responsive.  He had normal respiratory sounds and his heart was loud and clear.  The hawk had a large amount of pin feathers and down still present.  His vent was clean and void of debris.  The oral cavity was filled with ropey saliva (indicative of dehydration) and whitish-yellow plaques.

White oral plaques

The presence of whitish-yellow plaques could indicate a number of different diseases commonly found in birds; hypovitaminosis A (low vitamin A), candidiasis, capillariasis, trichomoniasis, or less likely avian pox.  We swabbed his esophagus and mouth and positively identified living trichomonas under a microscope.  Trichomonas is a protozoan with flagella that reside primarily in the gastrointestinal tract.  It is a parasite.  It does not require an intermediate host or vector and are transmitted through either direct contact (bird to bird) or through ingestion of contaminated water (from bird baths, ponds, etc) or food (for birds of prey they may contract Trichomoniasis by eating prey species that are contaminated).  Infected adults can also transmit the organism to their chicks during feeding.  Depending on the species of Trichomonas, infections may be localized in the mouth, oropharynx, esophagus, crop and trachea, or the lungs and liver tissues may be invaded.  Trichomonads can cause inflammation and white plaques (as seen above) on the mucosa.  These plaques can accumulate and may become so severe that it may occlude the esophagus and trachea.  It is particularly common in pigeons (infections are called canker) and raptors (infections are called frounce).

The hawk was put on medications to help treat the infection and placed in quarantine.  Special care was required to ensure other birds being treated at the center not be exposed to any Trichomonad organisms.  The hawk continues to receive subcutaneous fluids (supplemented with vitamin B complex) and oral feedings.

If you are interested in donating to care for this bird or our current patients like it, please donate anything you can by following the donate link on the right-side of this page.


The purpose of this blog is to keep readers up-to-date with the current cases being treated at the Tucson Wildlife Center.  Due to the large amount of cases brought in on a daily basis, only a few will be represented at a time.  I will do my best to keep this as updated as possible.  If you find interest in any of these postings, please feel free to press the donate button (located at the right side of the page) and donate money that will help the Tucson Wildlife Center treat these cases, among others, and be able to afford diagnostic tests (x-rays, bloodwork, etc) necessary to help us find out what's wrong with some of our beloved wildlife.  Thank you for visiting!  Please feel free to participate in case presentations and leave comments and questions...